Trail Running – take a run on the wild side!

We would like to extend a big thank you to Julian Spence from The Running Company in Ballarat for this wonderful piece he wrote for us on trail running. Julian and the crew at The Running Company are a treasure trove of knowledge and advice about everything running: footwear, socks, hydration, nutrition, training…you get the drift. He is also an elite runner having won the Great Ocean Road Marathon for the past three years, is the current record holder for the Bogong2Hotham epic trail run, and only a few weeks ago ran a Commonwealth Games qualifying time at the Berlin marathon of 2hrs18min43sec!! Thanks again Jules!! Oh, and he ran over the line first at Run Ballarat just this weekend (12km in just over 37min).


Julian Spence (photo by Dylan Burns The Courier 23/10/17)

The new kid on the block in the running scene is trail running. The Internet is full of images of people running along the tops of mountains with hiking poles and videos of runners throwing themselves down steep inclines seemingly out of control.

But you don’t need to live in the Alps to take part in this liberating pastime. Right here in Ballarat you’ll find a thriving culture of trail running and some of the best locations in the country to sample this sport!


There are several different sorts of trail running. There’s Mountain running, ultra running, XC running, sky running BUT trail running is basically running off road. We’re the mountain bikers of the running world. If you’re not running on a footpath, road, athletics track or treadmill then chances are you’re trail running. There are urban trails that snake through cities and larger towns such as the Yarrowee loop in Ballarat and there are the more technical trails that are found in the regional, state and national parks around the country. The trails can be wider and more open such as fire roads but the real gems are the narrow single trails that force runners to run Indian file through the bush and ensure full concentration on foot placement!

Given the location of these trails you can expect them to be undulating with great views, lovely scenery, animal sightings and certainly away from any crowds or traffic.

Starting to see why the sport is taking off??


Runners have long been heading for the trails, well before it had a name and entire industry focussing on it!

The iconic running/life coach Percy Cerruty would have his athletes run the sandy bush trails of Portsea for their benefits of leg and lung strength. Arthur Lydiard, the founder of higher mileage training would set his athletes on weekly 20-30 mile runs through the New Zealand forest. Even in the present day, all the top Australian running coaches embark on a 2-4 week running camp up at Falls Creek and run the daily alpine trail network.

So what is it about the trails that draw runners to them?

Well, here’s a few reasons:

  1. Stabilizer strength and balance. Most trails aren’t even underfoot. They have divots, cambers, rocks, sticks, steps and boulders to try and negotiate. Each time you are putting your foot down you’re essentially having to balance yourself using all your little stabilizer muscles, tendons and ligaments. The more you’re on the trails, the more conditioned your foot and ankle gets helping to resist injury and improve performance.
  2. Big muscle strength. You may have noticed that most forests have hills in them which means if you run there, you’ll be going both uphill and downhill much more than your standard run around the lake. You may have to head up rock steps or jump over creeks. Different muscle fibres are in use during these movements. Uphill running puts more load on the glutes, hamstrings and calves. Downhill running loads the quads and core. Increased loading = adaption and strength gains. A good thing for runners of all disciplines.
  3. Injury prevention. Typically when running each foot will land between 80-90 times per minute. That’s about 7600 times per hour! Pretty repetitive isn’t it? A little scary even when you consider that on a treadmill or flat road even the loading patterns are exactly the same! In contrast, when running on trails nearly every footstrike will be different from the last – reducing the risk of overuse injuries. Couple that with the soft dirt trails rather than concrete and it’s no wonder the running coaches prefer you to hit the bush!
  4. Freedom! No people yelling, dogs lunging, cars tooting, roads to cross, bikes ripping past you, trail running takes you into nature away from the hustle and bustle. It’s just you, maybe your buddies and whichever native animals feel curious enough to check you out. You’ll run along riverbanks, climb ridges, descend into gullies and find that your 60 minute run turns into a 90min run very quickly! The best thing is that pace is irrelevant out on the trails. You can even turn your GPS off, listen the body and run to feel. There’s just something magic about running the single track that is hard to understand until you get out there and give it a crack!

Make sure you are aware of the following issues:

  1. The ground will be unstable and the risk of rolling your ankle is higher than road running. Make sure you have a stable pair of shoes and even start doing some ankles stability exercises at home to help with this.
  2. Snakes. They love the dirt trails are a presence in all forests. Very rare to get bitten but on a warm sunny day look to stick to some wider more open trails.
  3. Navigation. Make sure you know where you are at all times! Have a look at the maps before you run and even take your phone with you to double check any intersections. Nothing’s worse than the feeling of being lost on a hot day or when it’s getting dark.
  4. Weirdos. Nowhere near as many as in a city but a little more confronting if you run into them in the middle of the bush. Run with a buddy and you’ll be safer. Carry a phone.
  5. Hydration. No drinking taps in the bush so take your water. There are a range of lightweight hydration vests on the market that you can load with water, gels, your phone and anything else that you might need for a day on the trails.

What you need

  1. Trail shoes can help. They’ll give you more grip, better ankle stability and they’ll be tougher. That said, road shoes can certainly suffice if you’re just testing the waters.
  2. Longer, quality running socks. Your feet move all about in your shoes when on the trails. The uneven ground and hilly terrain mean you’ll be at risk of blisters and sore toes. Longer socks help to keep dirt out of the sock and protect you from cuts and abrasion on the ankle.
  3. If you plan on running longer, a hydration vest is going to really handy. You can store all your gels, jacket, phone, electrolytes and water for an adventure that may take you well away from the local 7/11!

Where to run?

The Goldfields region is blessed with trails perfect for running. Here’s a few little gems that will start off your exploring;

  1. The Goldfields Track. This trail runs from Bunningyong to Bendigo, right through the middle of Ballarat. There are countless entry and exit points for exploring but some highlights include the trails on Mt Buningyong, Nerrina to Creswick and Daylesford to Hepburn. Link here.
  2. The Beeripmo Walk. This 20km loop offers some steep climbs but the single track is worth it. Beautiful views from the summit of Mt Cole. Link here.
  3. The Lerdegerg State Forest. For the adventurous. Tackle Mt Blackwood and the Lerdergerg Gorge. These trails are more technical than the Ballarat area so expect some power hiking mixed in with your running!
  4. One of the best bits about trail running is exploring new areas. Get in the car and head off to the Grampians, the Otways, the Alpine region, the You Yangs or the Surfcoast. It’s a fantastic way to check out an area and see twice as many places than if you were walking.

The GoldRush Trail Run is a local trail event hosted by The Running Company Ballarat in Daylesford. There are 11km and 22km distance options with generous time allowances and aid stations along the routes.

The Goldfields Trail Runners are a group of local runners who meet weekly to run trails in a social and encouraging atmosphere.

The Running Company Ballarat is your local store stocking all things running including shoes, socks, hydration vests and gels.

Here at EO we are continuing to see an increase in runners who are taking to the trails. Trail running does place specific demands on the body and loads the lower limb in different ways. Please chat to us if you’re experiencing pain trail running or want to discuss injury prevention for this wonderful pastime. Click here to book online.


Blake Hose. TRC Ballarat employee. Transvulcania, Spain.


Competitor. Gold Rush Trail Run. Daylesford


Dale Chircop. Peaks & Trails. Dunkeld